COMMUNITY leaders and intellectuals from 10 African countries, including Nigeria, have expressed serious concerns over on-going oil exploration projects across the continent. Among the 10 countries are, Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Togo.
They were galvanised by Oilwatch Africa, a continental environmental human rights group, to arrive at their decision.
AkanimoReports gathered from Port Harcourt, the capital of Nigeria's Rivers State on Monday, that the group and representatives from the academia, development experts and community leaders met under the theme, Oil over Africa: Economic Boom and Burst to deliberate on the recent proliferation of oil and gas exploration, development and production projects on the continent, and the impact on the peoples of Africa, particularly the socio-economic and environmental costs that are associated with these activities.
Their conference, it was gathered, expressed concern over the unbridled oil exploration projects across Africa, noting with regret the adverse environmental impacts from the activities of the oil producing companies and the concomitant effects on community livelihoods and social displacements; recognized the contributory role of oil as a major source of conflict; denounced the lack of strong institutions and the lack of transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector.
Kentebe Ebiaridi, a top official of the Oilwatch desk in Port Harcourt, told AkanimoReports that representatives of the 10 African countries noted with concern the ''pervasive corruption'' that emanated from the fossil fuel production activities in Africa.
On the basis of the foregoing concerns, the conference, according to him which took place in Accra, Ghana, last week made the following demands:
* African oil producing countries should strengthen their institutions in order to protect citizens and communities, and deliver on development that is consistent with the peoples’ aspirations.
* African oil producing countries should conduct cost-benefit analysis as a pre-condition for further exploration.
* African countries should minimize their dependency on fossil fuel by exploring and adopting alternative renewable energy sources.
* African governments should take democratic measures to end conflicts and land-grabbing especially those related to oil, gas and mining.
* Transparency and accountability in the relationship between governments and citizens, including communities.
* An end to impunity in all its forms and manifestations by oil companies and governments.
* The establishment of environmental tribunals by governments to deal with environmental aberrations.
* Citizen empowerment, full disclosure and adequate community consultation and participation in decision-making processes.
* The Nigerian government should implement with immediate effect the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the assessment of Ogoni.
He said the conference reiterated the mandate of Oilwatch that sustainable fossil fuel extraction is impossible to implement and call for LEAVING THE OIL IN THE SOIL.
''We commit to work together to strengthen the capacity of communities and socially marginalized groups in oil producing countries to ensure our demands are met'', he said. ENDS